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Case Name Smiley v. California Department of Education DR-CA-0051
Docket / Court 3:01-cv-01780 ( N.D. Cal. )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Disability Rights-Pub. Accom.
Case Summary
On May 8, 2001, plaintiff students, by guardians ad litem and on behalf of all others similarly situated, and the Learning Disabilities Association of California, filed a class action complaint in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California against the California ... read more >
On May 8, 2001, plaintiff students, by guardians ad litem and on behalf of all others similarly situated, and the Learning Disabilities Association of California, filed a class action complaint in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California against the California Department of Education ("CDE") and Fremont Unified School District ("FUSD"). The case proceeded under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. ("the ADA"), the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794, et seq., the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. § 1400, et seq. ("IDEA"), and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution; it sought to halt the administration of the CDE's High School Exit Exam ("the Exam"). Plaintiffs, represented by the Disability Rights Advocates and private counsel, asked the Court for injunctive relief to prevent the examinations from being administered, claiming that the Exam discriminated against students with disabilities because, inter alia, there was no alternate assessment procedure for requesting accommodations on the Exam or procedure for appealing denials of accommodation requests, and the Exam tested disabled students on material they had never been taught. On December 10, 2001, plaintiffs filed their first amended complaint; at this time, a different plaintiff was named as lead.

The District Court (District Judge Charles A. Breyer) granted plaintiffs class certification on January 6, 2002. On Feb. 6, 2002, the District Court (Magistrate Judge Edward M. Chen) granted in part and denied in part plaintiffs' motion to compel. Chapman v. Cal. Dep't of Ed., No. 01-1780, 2002 WL 32854376 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 6, 2002). On February 21, 2002, the District Court (Judge Charles R. Breyer) granted plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunction. Judge Breyer held that disabled students had standing to challenge the Exam under IDEA and the Rehabilitation Act; there was private right of action under IDEA; students were not required to exhaust administrative remedies; the likelihood of prevailing on merits requirement was satisfied; students satisfied irreparable injury requirement; and the state would be required to honor testing accommodations and alternate assessment provisions contained in student's Individualized Education Programs prepared under IDEA and plans under the Rehabilitation Act. Chapman v. Cal. Dep't of Ed., 229 F.Supp.2d 981 (N.D. Cal Feb. 21, 2002).

On March 19, 2002, CDE filed an appeal with the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. (On April 3, 2002, the District Court granted the parties' stipulation to dismiss without prejudice defendants Fremont Unified School District (FUSD); more claims were dismissed by the District Court on May 3 and May 7 2002.) On Sept. 4, 2002, the Ninth Circuit (Circuit Judges Cynthia Holcomb Hall, M. Margaret McKeown, and Richard R. Clifton) reversed in part and remanded with directions to dissolve certain portions of the preliminary injunction, with each party to bear its own costs on appeal. Smiley v. Cal. Dep't of Educ., 45 Fed. Appx. 780 (9th Cir. Sept. 4, 2002). The Court amended and reaffirmed this order on December 19, 2002. Smiley v. Cal. Dep't of Educ., 53 Fed.Appx. 474 (9th Cir. Dec. 19, 2002).

On December 20, 2002, plaintiffs filed their second (final) amended complaint, asking the court to determine that their action could be maintained as a class action; to grant a declaratory judgment that CDE had violated the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, IDEA, and the United States Constitution; to issue a preliminary injunction to stay the administration of the Exam during Spring, 2002; to issue a permanent injunction requiring CDE to develop appropriate policies for handling requests for accommodation; and to award attorneys' fees and costs.

Instead, the District Court (District Judge Breyer) ordered dismissed as unripe all of plaintiffs' claims with the exception of plaintiffs' challenges under the IDEA, the ADA, and the Declaratory Judgment Act to the process for obtaining a waiver of the exit exam requirement on March 12, 2003. Then, on July 9, 2003, the nine members of the state Board of Education voted unanimously to eliminate the Exam as a graduation requirement for the class of 2004 but to reinstate it for the class of 2006. On Sept. 5, 2003, Judge Breyer held that students no longer had standing to challenge the process for obtaining a waiver of the test and ordered the matter dismissed without prejudice. Chapman v. Cal. Dep't of Educ., 2003 WL 22114264 (N.D. Cal Sept. 5, 2003). The case mostly concluded on September 8, 2003.

On April 7, 2004 Judge Breyer awarded plaintiffs $129,827.46 in attorneys' fees and costs, because they had substantially prevailed. In July 2005, they parties met for an additional settlement conference. Defendants were instructed to draft additional settlement documents, to be submitted to Magistrate Judge Spero with plaintiffs’ comments. No further action has taken place at this time.

Heather Turner - 06/06/2014
Elise Coletta - 03/15/2019

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief granted
Reasonable Accommodation
Elementary/Secondary School
disability, unspecified
Accommodation / Leave
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
Failure to train
Reasonable Accommodations
Reasonable Modifications
School/University policies
Special education
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Mental Disability
Learning disability
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Causes of Action Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq.
Indv. w/ Disab. Educ. Act (IDEA), Educ. of All Handcpd. Children Act , 20 U.S.C. § 1400
Defendant(s) California Department of Education
Plaintiff Description Students, by guardians ad litem and on behalf of all others similarly situated, and the Learning Disabilities Association of California
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Attorneys fees
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 2003 - 2004
Filed 05/08/2001
Case Closing Year 2004
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  See this case at (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
3:01-cv-01780 (N.D. Cal.)
DR-CA-0051-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/27/2005
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Class Action Complaint and Demand for Jury Trial [ECF# 1]
DR-CA-0051-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/08/2001
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Class Action; First Amended Complaint; Demand for Jury Trial [ECF# 46]
DR-CA-0051-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/10/2001
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting Class Certification [ECF# 120] (N.D. Cal.)
DR-CA-0051-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/16/2002
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting in Part and Denying Part Plaintiffs' Motion to Compel (2002 WL 32854376) (N.D. Cal.)
DR-CA-0051-0012.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 02/06/2002
Source: Westlaw
Order Granting Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 189] (229 F.Supp.2d 981) (N.D. Cal.)
DR-CA-0051-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 02/21/2002
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order in Part Reversing & Remanding for Dissolution Preliminary Injunction (45 Fed.Appx. 780)
DR-CA-0051-0013.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 09/04/2002
Source: LexisNexis
Amended Memorandum Opinion Re: Partial Reversal and Dissolution of Preliminary Injunction (53 Fed.Appx. 474)
DR-CA-0051-0014.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 12/19/2002
Source: Westlaw
Second Amended Complaint and Demand for Jury Trial [ECF# 337]
DR-CA-0051-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/20/2002
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum and Order [ECF# 342] (N.D. Cal.)
DR-CA-0051-0009.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/12/2003
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Supplemental Order RE: Defendants' Motion for Summary judgment [ECF# 367] (2003 WL 22114264) (N.D. Cal.)
DR-CA-0051-0010.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 09/05/2003
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting Attorneys' Fees and Costs [ECF# 425] (N.D. Cal.)
DR-CA-0051-0011.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/07/2004
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Settlement Agreement
DR-CA-0051-0015.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/29/2005
show all people docs
Judges Breyer, Charles R. (N.D. Cal.) show/hide docs
DR-CA-0051-0003 | DR-CA-0051-0004 | DR-CA-0051-0009 | DR-CA-0051-0010 | DR-CA-0051-0011 | DR-CA-0051-0013 | DR-CA-0051-9000
Chen, Edward Milton (N.D. Cal.) [Magistrate] show/hide docs
Clifton, Richard R. (Ninth Circuit) show/hide docs
Hall, Cynthia Holcomb (C.D. Cal., Ninth Circuit) show/hide docs
McKeown, M. Margaret (Ninth Circuit) show/hide docs
Spero, Joseph C. (N.D. Cal.) show/hide docs
Plaintiff's Lawyers Aubrejuan, Alison (California) show/hide docs
Benedetti, Rhoda (California) show/hide docs
Cabraser, Elizabeth J. (California) show/hide docs
Cervantez, Eve Hedy (California) show/hide docs
Kasnitz, Melissa Wendy (California) show/hide docs
Konecky, Joshua Geoffrey (California) show/hide docs
Ratner, Morris Andrew (California) show/hide docs
DR-CA-0051-0001 | DR-CA-0051-9000
Reiten, Mary Bondy (Washington) show/hide docs
Wolinsky, Sidney M. (California) show/hide docs
DR-CA-0051-0001 | DR-CA-0051-0002 | DR-CA-0051-0008 | DR-CA-0051-0015 | DR-CA-0051-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Giorgi, Suzanne B. (California) show/hide docs
Hawley, James R. (California) show/hide docs
Hersher, Michael E. (California) show/hide docs
Holloway, Amy Bisson (California) show/hide docs
Press, Douglas (California) show/hide docs
DR-CA-0051-0015 | DR-CA-0051-9000
Read-Spangler, Kara (California) show/hide docs
Schwartz, Karin S. (California) show/hide docs
Stinson, Teresa (California) show/hide docs

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